One of the most common questions I hear from Photoshop users is, how do I extract people from one background and set them against another, with all their hair intact? Having written a book and recorded more than 50 hours of video on that very topic, I can assure you, there are lots of ways to do it. And it all starts with creating an accurate mask.
Photoshop offers lots of masking options. But they’re not what Adobe likes to call “discoverable.” In other words, there’s no way in hell you’d figured out how to mask hair—using such unhair-sounding features as alpha channels, Calculations, and Overlay painting—unless a guy like me showed you how to do it.
Enter Photoshop CS5’s revamped Refine Edge command (variously known as Refine Mask) that can grow a selection or layer mask into tendrils of hair and even get rid of the fridges of color around the edges so the hair looks right against a different background.
I’m not sure CS5’s enhancement is any more discoverable than the dozen or so other masking options hidden throughout the software. I mean, c’mon, who among us equates “hair” with “Refine Edge”? (Oh wait, I know—no one!) But whatever you think of the name, the new and improved Refine Edge command lets you perfect your masks with a significantly higher degree of control than you’ve had in the past.